Collaboration is key to success as law firm Marval celebrates its centenary
Argentina’s capital city Buenos Aires erupted with joy at the end of 2022 as the national football team - and more specifically football royalty Lionel Messi - lifted the World Cup in Qatar. Millions of revellers spilled onto the capital bustling city streets to party more than one night away. However, there is another important celebration happening in Buenos Aires in 2023.
This year sees Lex Mundi’s member firm for Argentina - Marval O’Farrell Mairal (MOM) - celebrate its 100th year anniversary and already the firm has begun sending out notifications to welcome its many clients, business partners, former employees and global friends along for the firm’s celebrations later in the year, as partner and member of the firm’s executive committee Sebastian Iribarne explains.
“Reaching our centenary is a huge milestone for us here at Marval,” says Iribarne. “I joined the firm 32 years ago in 1990 and we had 25 lawyers at that time. I have seen the firm grow enormously over the years and today we have 300 lawyers working across the business. Naturally there have been good times and hard times along the way and as anyone who knows Argentina, things can and do change quickly here in our economy. It can be a pretty crazy place.
“When I started contacting people about our 100th year celebrations a few came back saying that their firm had turned 100 a while ago, so, we are not the oldest legal firm in Argentina, but we are now the biggest in the country.”
Lex Mundi’s board is made up of lawyers from jurisdictions all over the world, which gives you a genuinely unique insight into all the differences and similarities that exist in legal firms around the world.
Sebastian Iribarne Partner
Iribarne says that due to the firm’s size and breadth of its service offer – practice areas range from Banking to Oil & Gas, Real Estate to IT, Project Financing to Family Law and everything in between – Marval is now usually involved in most major transactions taking place inside the country’s borders. Today Marval counts major organisations such as Nike, Mondelez Argentina, Banco Comafi, AngloGold Ashanti, ICBC, Cargill and CNH Industrial Capital among its many clients.
As Iribarne explains, Latin America’s legal firms across jurisdictions such as Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Peru, Colombia, Mexico to name a few, have collaborated closely on legal projects for many years now, even before they became Lex Mundi members. He puts the success of those collaborations down to the deep trust that has grown and the close friendships that have been built by spending time together at Lex Mundi’s many events, conferences and seminars in the region.
Marval was a founding member firm of Lex Mundi in 1989 and during that time the firm, and its partnership, has played an important part in the network’s growth and development. Iribarne himself is a former Chair of Lex Mundi, and that was a role that he dedicated significant time to alongside his daily duties at Marval. In retrospect, Iribarne says that the time he invested as Chair of the global legal network ultimately helped him enormously to better support and guide his clients and deliver the highest quality legal services possible.
“If you don’t come out of being Chair of Lex Mundi being much smarter than you were when you went in then you’ve got a problem. Lex Mundi’s board is made up of lawyers from jurisdictions all over the world, which gives you a genuinely unique insight into all the differences and similarities that exist in legal firms around the world. There are firms represented on the board with 500 lawyers and firms with 15 lawyers, so the conversations you are involved in are very rich and diverse. Everybody you speak to has something valuable to bring to the conversation, regardless of how big or small their law firm is.”
“You see that some regions have a particular issue or challenge, while firms in other regions have very different challenges. Firms of a certain size have this problem and firms of that size have other problems to solve, so it is extremely mind expanding to be able to spend time sharing thoughts with such a cross section of lawyers. Being Chair was a very enriching experience for me.”
As business leaders we all must accept that today’s workforce is more fluid, people will join you and people will leave you, but there will always be talented new people stopping by for a few years.
One Lex Mundi Initiative that Iribarne is a staunch supporter of is the Lex Mundi Institute (LMI), the network’s flagship professional development program that offers learning opportunities for the rising stars within member firms. The Institute provides training that enables ambitious lawyers the opportunity to build leadership skills, while providing the knowledge required to successfully manage international engagements and deliver superior results to their clients.
“A partner once said to me that the best tool against ignorance is a well-used passport. So, since LMI was founded we have always sent our partners to it every year as it’s an unbelievable opportunity for them to meet other young partners from all over the world and start building their own partner-level networks,” says Iribarne. “You’ve got to get out there and meet people from all over the world and see how things work in other jurisdictions. Some things will be mind-opening for you, and you’ll learn new ways of approaching challenges and problems for your own clients.
“I don’t think there are many firms in Argentina that can give a young ambitious lawyer those types of opportunities, and being part of Lex Mundi is a real selling point for us at Marval and is always something we talk about during our recruitment campaigns. Pretty much every lawyer here will do something with Lex Mundi at some point in their career.”
On the issue of attracting and retaining talent, Iribarne remains realistic, recognising that modern-day workforces are much more fluid than they were when he first took up his post with Marval back in 1990.
“We do everything we can here at Marval to create a really strong and positive work culture for our lawyers to operate in,” he says, “but we have to recognise that work cultures have changed a lot over the last decade and young people today like to move jobs more than ever before. They see value in moving through different roles, whereas people of my generation ideally wanted a job for life.
“As business leaders we all must accept that today’s workforce is more fluid, people will join you and people will leave you, but there will always be talented new people stopping by for a few years. You have to look at recruitment, retention, training and development as an investment in your firm and try to ensure that everybody has a great experience when they work with you. We know we are a moving target and that we must keep developing things and moving our culture forward and Lex Mundi’s initiatives such as the LM Institute and the STARS programme are a factor in enabling us to do that by offering exciting opportunities to our young people.”
If you’ve not received your invitation to Marval’s centenary celebrations yet perhaps you should drop Sebastian an email soon. As we all saw after the World Cup, Argentina throws a celebration you don’t want to miss.